[photo: sketch of the Point Lonsdale lighthouse, 22 Dec.1852 (SLV H2384)]
This remarkable group of drawings was purchased from London bookseller Frances Edwards, for only £30. The relevant correspondence between Edwards and Chief Librarian E.La Touche Armstrong (preserved in the Victorian Public Records Office) also mentions three small oil paintings of Melbourne by von Guérard, offered by Edwards at the same time but unfortunately not acquired.
Ruth Pullin (2014) identifies a number of these drawings as from the artist’s first three Australian sketchbooks (nos.XIX-XXI in the complete sequence of his sketchbooks), previously believed lost. The sketches, cut from the original books prior to 1903, are mostly small in scale, and typically in pencil on cream or blue paper. Other sketches cut from these books form part of the “Journal of an Australian Gold Digger by E.v.G.” (Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales).
Following Pullin’s analysis, the drawings acquired for Melbourne in 1902 may be grouped as follows:
- 18 sketches on 14 sheets of cream paper (4 double-sided), showing various subjects from von Guérard’s sea voyage to Australia (Oct.-Dec.1852) and travel overland via Geelong to Ballarat (early January 1853): SLV H2345 etc. Pullin identifies these drawings as from the artist’s first Australian sketchbook (no.XIX). The sketch reproduced here is one of the first drawings he made of Australia, on 22 Dec.1852, showing the Point Lonsdale lighthouse (SLV H2384)
- 24 sketches, mostly on blue paper, made on the Ballarat goldfields during 1853; from von Guérard’s second Australian sketchbook (no.XX): SLV 2341 etc. Pullin argues that these sketches demonstrate the artist’s growing awareness of the reality of the local landscape.
- A sketch of Blackhill, dated 15 Feb.1854 (SLV H2349), identified by Pullin as from the artist’s third Australian sketchbook (no.XXI), dating from late 1853 to 1854/5.
- Some 50 stand-alone drawings, generally more highly finished and larger-scale, again mostly in pencil but in some cases also in pen & ink and watercolour, produced in Melbourne, Ballarat etc. between 1852 and 1856 (SLV H592 etc.). Subjects include scenes on the Ballarat goldfields, landscapes, and studies of plants and animals. Also included are several multi-sheet panoramas, notably an extraordinary 360 degree panorama of Melbourne, produced in February-March 1855, almost 3.5 metres wide (SLV 1547a-e). Pullin singles out the drawing of a large gum tree in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens, dated Feb.1855 (SLV H3811), as a fine example of the artist’s developing understanding of the Australian landscape; for a reproduction, see Drawings – Introduction.
Not listed in NGV 1894 or 1905
For full details and reproductions of the individual drawings, see SLV catalogue, listed under the general heading “Eugene von Guerard’s pencil drawings and watercolours”
For scholarly analysis, see in particular Ruth Pullin, “Von Guérard’s first Australian Sketchbooks,” La Trobe Journal (2014), and her The Artist as Traveller: the Sketchbooks of Eugene von Guérard, Ballarat Art Gallery/SLV, 2018, esp.pp.87ff.; Ruth Pullin (email, July 2019) also kindly forwarded copies of the 1902 correspondence between Edwards and Armstrong
A number of these drawings were first published by Marjorie Tipping, An Artist on the Goldfields: the Diary of Eugène von Guérard, South Yarra, 1982/Melbourne UP, 1992